Environmental Policies and Legislation


Canada is part of many international agreements and partnerships that deal with addressing the issues related to climate change. This includes:

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

THE UNFCC is an international forum that addresses climate problems. The treaty includes 195 parties. Part of Canada’s commitment to fight climate change includes: providing yearly greenhouse gas emissions data, reporting on progress to reduce net greenhouse gases, providing resources to poorer countries to help them fight climate change, and conducting climate research and data collecting on the impacts of climate change.

Paris Climate Agreement

The Paris Climate Agreement was signed on December 12, 2015 by 195 countries. It is an agreement to reduce the effects of climate change by taking actions to keep the global average temperature increase from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius, and with an aim of an increase of only 1.5 degrees Celsius. Other goals include climate resilience and lower greenhouse gas development. The countries that signed the agreement made climate targets for 2025 or 2030.

Climate and Clean Air Coalition

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition is a partnership between governments, the private sector and civil society stakeholders. They work on reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP) which are a group of greenhouse gases and air pollutants that have a warming effect on the Earth and which affect our air quality. E.g. methane, HCFs, black carbon.

Global Methane Initiative

The Global Methane Initiative is an international partnership for reducing methane pollution. It also aims at using methane as a clean source of energy. The GMI’s main areas of work are: oil and gas systems, landfills, agriculture, municipal waste and wastewater, and coal mining.


Active Transportation Fund

This program encourages the development of active transportation infrastructure by providing funding to build and expand infrastructure such as bike lanes and trails.

Canada`s Clean Air and Climate Change Act

Canada’s Clean Air and Climate Change Act amended the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Energy Efficiency Act, and the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act.  The bill recognizes that air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions are a risk to the environment and to our health. The bill also addresses and lays out the national standards on air pollution as well as greenhouse gas emissions (GGE).

Canada`s Energy Efficiency Act

Canada’s Energy Efficiency Act set the regulations on trade and sell regarding energy-using products. It states that products shipped into Canada must comply with energy efficiency standards. Further, it gives the Minister powers to promote the efficient use of energy and the use of alternative energy sources. Under this act, every 3 years, the Minister has to include a comparison of energy efficiency standards in the yearly report.

Canada`s Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions

The aim of Canada’s Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions is to reduce GGE and air pollutants in order to improve the health of Canadians and of the environment. It includes four main regulatory frameworks: the industrial sector, transportation, consumer products and improving indoor air quality.

It regulates GGE and air pollutants across the industry, the fuel efficiency of motor vehicles, smog and acid rain forming from vehicle emissions, and it strengthens energy efficiency standards.

Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change

The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change is a plan to meet emission reduction targets while maintaining economic growth and building resilience to climate change. One of the measures included is the carbon tax. The framework advises reductions in economic sectors so that we can phase into clean sources of energy. The government supports actions under the framework through policy and investments.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act gives the government the right to use their powers to protect the environment and human health, and to enforce pollution prevention. This act put in place a consistent set of environmental protection standards throughout Canada. It outlines the protection of the environment, including diversity and human health from toxic substances, pollutants and wastes by using safer technology. It also requires the government, when making a decision, to consider the environmental and human impacts in the short and long term.

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012

The purpose of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is to protect the environment, within the government’s powers, from significant negative impacts coming from a project. The act states that projects must be done conscious of the environmental impact and seeking to limit it; to promote sustainable development for a healthy environment and economy; and to encourage the study of the impact that the activities will have on the environment in that region and to consider the results in environmental assessments. Some of the factors included in an environmental assessment are: the environmental effects of a project (including the effects of any problems or accidents that could occur within the project and the significance of the effects); and the ways to realistically lessen the negative impacts.

Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, 1985

This Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act recognizes the economic benefits of the natural resources in the arctic waters, it takes responsibility for the welfare of the Inuit and other inhabitants in the Canadian arctic and preserves the ecological balance of the arctic. The act aims to prevent pollution in the arctic waters of the Canadian mainland and islands in the arctic. For instance, dumping waste in arctic waters is prohibited.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001

The Canada Shipping Act provides regulations to protect the marine environment coming from navigation and shipping activities, with some exceptions.

Fisheries Act

The Fisheries Act covers the management and control of fisheries, conservation and protection of fish as well as their habitat, and pollution prevention. In addition, it gives the Minister the powers to manage the fisheries for purposes of conservation and the protection of the fish. This allows the Minister to ask for tests or sampling to be done and see how the fish are affected. The act helps prevent anyone from causing serious harm to the fish and from depositing harmful substances.

Provincial: Ontario

Environmental Protection Act, 1990

The aim of the Environmental Protection Act is to protect and conserve our natural environment. The act includes provisions on vehicles, waste management, renewable energy, spills, and it covers the prohibition, reporting, and handling of contamination.

Air Pollution and Air Quality (Environmental Protection Act)

Regulation on air contaminants released into the air within the Environmental Protection Act includes regulation on local industrial and commercial facilities. The goal of the legislation is to limit the substances which affect our health and our environment. It instructs industry to be transparent in their operations. The regulation states that facilities must act to reduce risk to local communities. Other purposes of the act are: to prevent, reduce and eliminate the use, generation and release of pollutants that are not necessary, and that threatens our environment; and protection and conservation of diversity, natural resources and ecologically sensitive areas or processes. The act allows the people of Ontario to take part in the making of environmental decisions of the Government of Ontario.

Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993

Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights recognizes the value of the natural environment and a person’s right to a healthy environment. The aim is in protecting, conserving and restoring the environment. Also, it provides for the sustainability of the environment.

Ontario Water Resources Act, 1990

The purpose of the Water Resources Act is to outline the regulations for protecting, conserving and managing our water resources, and to set up a system to assure they are used in an efficient and sustainable way. The act makes the discharge of pollutants into water illegal and it regulates the discharge of sewage into water.

Clean Water Act, 2006

The Clean Water Act protects our drinking water sources. It gives municipalities responsibility on the enforcement in the protection of water in the municipality. This includes passing by-laws as part of the enforcement and appointing a risk management official to handle enforcement.

Environment Assessment Act, 1996

The Environment Assessment Act provides for the protection, conservation and proper management of Ontario’s environment. For instance, under this act, municipalities must have their waste disposal strategies approved by the Ministry. The Ministry also gives approval to other projects where an environmental assessment is required. In addition, the act gives the Minister the power to prepare policy guidelines in relation to the protection, conservation and wise management of the environment for a Tribunal to use when making decisions under this act.

Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002

The Safe Drinking Water Act recognizes that Ontarians expect to have access to safe drinking water, and it sets regulations to protect our health and prevent drinking water contamination. The act gives the Minister responsibility for overseeing the regulation, and it requires a mandatory yearly report to be written for the Minister regarding information on the drinking water systems. Some important measures included in this act include the mandatory: use of licensed labs for drinking water testing, reporting of any adverse test results, and certified operators for every drinking water system. It also gives the MOE inspection powers, and sets strong prohibitions and penalties.

Green Energy Act, 2009

The Green Energy Act encourages the growth of renewable energy projects in the province, which use cleaner sources of energy, and to give more opportunities for the development of these projects to foster a green economy. The act also encourages energy efficiency across the province.  The Ford government has introduced new legislation to repeal the act (in September 2018). This would give the government the power to stop new energy projects that they feel are not needed.

Waste-Free Ontario Act, 2016

The Waste-Free Ontario Act creates a strategy to divert more waste from the landfill and reintegrate it into our economy. The ultimate goal is to achieve zero waste and zero greenhouse gas emissions. The act addresses the need for more oversight and enforcement of policy. Another goal is to create effective recovery systems. This includes setting up regulations to make producers fully responsible for their materials through the Province’s already existing waste diversion programs. The act is set to achieve full resource recovery by addressing waste from the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors, who only divert 13% of their waste. It aims to reduce the need for landfills in the future and states intentions to use technology to capture methane emissions from the landfill to generate electricity.

Municipal: London

Climate Emergency Plan

Following the City’s climate emergency declaration, the Climate Emergency Action Plan has the following goals:

  • Increase London’s resilience to effects of climate change
  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 37% below 1990 levels by 2030
  • reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Bird Friendly Skies Program

As part of the City’s commitment to create environmentally friendly spaces for birds, this policy updated the Site Plan Control By-Law requiring new developments to adjust their designs to reduce bird window collisions.

Idling Control By-law

In general, it is not permitted to idle a motor vehicle for more than 2 minutes, with some exceptions such as emergency situations or in temperatures higher than 27 degrees Celsius or temperatures lower than 5 degrees Celsius. An offence can have a fine between the minimum $50.00 to a maximum of $5,000.00

Open Air Burning By-law

This by-law specifies the conditions where and when open air burning is allowed.

Tree Protection By-law

This by-law regulates the destruction of trees and encourages their preservation. For instance, it prohibits harming a tree within the Tree Protection Area* unless you have a city issued permit.

*a geographic area that appears as a Tree Protection Area on Schedule D of the by-law (refer to the maps from the link).

Boulevard Tree Protection By-law

The General Manager of Environmental and Engineering Services and City Engineer has authority over trees on a boulevard in the city. The by-law prohibits planting a tree on a boulevard without permission of the city; to plant a “Schedule A” tree; or to cut down or harm a tree on a city boulevard.

Waste Discharge By-law

Regulates the discharge of wastes in public sewage and of hauled liquid waste (leachate and/or septage). It provides rules such as: waste can only be discharged into a sanitary sewer; Hauled Liquid Waste can only be discharged at a Hauled Liquid Waste Facility; and no discharging of more than 100mg per litre of fat, oil, grease or other into sanitary sewers.

Water By-law

Regulates water use in the City. Prohibits actions such as: wasting water, depositing of harmful substances into water, and sets restrictions on water use outside in June, July and August.

Yard and Lot Maintenance By-law

Prohibits dumping on any private or City property.